In the late 1960s my grandparents moved to the UK from Punjab. My grandmother‚’s survival is deeply embedded in the social infrastructure which has supported her, namely faith-based communities and places of worship. One of the unique consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that for many elderly people, their places of worship and faith-based communities have remained inaccessible.
My grandmother wakes up at the crack of dawn every morning to recite her morning prayers. She then travels to her local Gurdwara in Handsworth, Birmingham, to prepare food with a group of around 50 elderly people, many of whom have been volunteers for between 10-40 years. My grandmother leaves the Gurdwara at 9:00am and returns later in the day before heading home for evening prayers and rest.
My grandmother‚’s routine is commonplace across migrant communities, particularly with the elderly. Places of worship provide essential social and psychological supports to people in our society; they are a space for collective discussion, social interaction, developing skills, sharing of food, collective prayer, and selfless service. Lock-down has meant that many have been unable to continue these activities, which has been especially hard for older generations. My grandmother has been unable to engage with her main social supports which have helped her survive and thrive whilst she has lived in Britain.
All elderly people can experience loneliness. However, this can be magnified when we consider elderly migrant populations and those with existing health conditions. Our society predicates itself on migrant communities being able to live their lives to the fullest, but it fails to recognise the institutions which make this so. Currently my grandmother sits in good spirits with a heartfelt hope that she will, one day soon, be able to frequent the Gurdwara again.